The push to privatize Pre-K heats up

Supporters of early childhood education who applauded Gov. Perdue’s decision to add 2,000 slots to Pre-K this year, may have less to celebrate after Thursday. That’s when the House Select Committee on Early Childhood Education Improvement meets to consider a draft report that would shift NC Pre-K toward privatization.

The Committee, co-chaired by Representatives Justin Burr (R-Stanly) and Rayne Brown (R-Davidson) would clarify the definition of “at-risk” to limit the eligibility for Pre-K classes to children whose families are  at or below the federal government’s poverty guidelines. (For comparison, 4-year-olds from a family of four with an income of around $50,000 are currently eligible for program. Under the House committee’s new proposal the threshold would be lowered to $22,000.)

In 2013, the legislative proposal would shift the NC prekindergarten program away from the public schools, if favor of licensed, private child care operations.

Here’s an excerpt from the draft report:

SECTION 3. Beginning July 1, 2013, local school administrative units 1 shall not  serve as contract administrators for the NC Pre-K program.

SECTION 4. It is the intent of the General Assembly that NC Pre-K 3 classrooms be provided within licensed private child care centers exclusively. To that end:

(1) The Department of Health and Human Services, Division of Child Development and Early Education, shall develop a plan to phase out the prekindergarten program in public school classrooms. The Division of Child Development and Early Education shall report on the phase out plan to the House of Representatives Appropriations Committee on Health and Human Services, the Senate Appropriations/Base Budget Committee on Health and Human Services, and the Fiscal Research Division no later than December 1, 2012. The report shall include the impact to all counties, specifically those counties that will be adversely affected by the plan.

(2) Beginning the 2013-2014 academic school year, the Division of Child Development and Early Education shall begin implementing the phase out plan. However, the Division may extend the phase out period for those counties it
determines will be greatly impacted by the phase out.

As part of the transition, the Division of Child Development and Early Education  shall require the NC Pre-K contractor to issue multiple-year contracts for licensed private child care centers providing NC Pre-K classrooms.

Dr. Bill Harrison, chair of the State Board of Education, said he was “disappointed” that some members of the General Assembly continue to push this critical piece of public education one step closer to privatization.

He goes on to write:

…by removing all pre-k programs from public schools, lawmakers would be funneling more taxpayer dollars to for-profit, private daycare centers. Some of these organizations are focused more on the bottom line then the children served. To keep profits coming in, some private centers will cut corners and sacrifice the high quality academic program all NC Pre-K programs should provide.  In addition, the Committee members failed to consider input from local school districts (many of which already run successful NC Pre-K programs) when they were drafting their report and they have not yet shared any research on which they based their recommendations.

The House Select Committee on Early Childhood Education Improvement  meets at 9:00am March 1st in Room 643 of the Legislative Office Building. You can read a full .pdf copy of the committee’s most recent draft report here.

18 Comments

  1. Frank Burns

    February 25, 2012 at 12:39 pm

    One suggestion is to eliminate all funding for Pre K and use those funds for actual education, not free day care.

  2. gregflynn

    February 25, 2012 at 7:07 pm

    I’m so glad to hear you now support increased funding of K-12 education Frank. It seems we’re making some progress. It’s too bad it has to come at the expense of Pre-K education, which will increase K-12 costs eventually, but it’s the thought that counts.

  3. Frank Burns

    February 25, 2012 at 8:44 pm

    Greg, there you go again supporting increased spending on programs with the deception that it does anything worthwhile, which it doesn’t. You really need to try and be more progressive and quit thinking like a leftwing dinosaur. It’s really retro. Living within our means is where we are all going.

  4. Alex

    February 26, 2012 at 7:08 am

    Greg always thinks if the government runs a program , it must be good. In reality, most of these programs are ill-conceived and not very cost efficient. If these programs were that important, we would see better results at the back end which no one wants to talk about. Once you establish the bureaucracy associated with the programs, they will always find enough half-baked PhD’s to support it. The money could be spent much betterin other places.

  5. gregflynn

    February 26, 2012 at 8:57 pm

    Alex, be judicious in the use of words like always, never, and no one. They have a habit of getting cranky and biting if not fully satisfied, or go too long without a nap. Plenty of government programs have earned my scorn. Even if you haven’t read the numerous reports of the House Select Committee on Early Childhood Education Improvement you have to wonder why private Pre-K operators see threats and opportunities in a program program as worthless as you would depict. The long term benefits and cost efficiency of Pre-K have been demonstrated, particularly for white children, however, poor K-12 schools erode the academic gains for African-American children. A focus on high-poverty K-12 schools would see resources well spent.

  6. gregflynn

    February 26, 2012 at 10:02 pm

    Dang Frank! You found me out. My real name is Flintstone. It was legally changed in 1982 when I graduated with a degree in Masonic Arts and did an internship in Tora Bora, where I first learn to evade Soviet black helicopters. I receive my instructions directly from George Soros through a dental implant, activated by Swedish vodka chilled to 32°. I normally pass unnoticed in western civilization, having assimilated into the mainstream as a silver haired white European Christian male, but I glow in proximity to high voltage electricity. My prehistoric body has adapted to the modern world. I process water impurities and air pollution into metallic deposits in my silvery hair which obviates the need for a conspicuous aluminum foil turban. However, my presence can still be detected with a combination of infra-red camera and an EMF meter or an AM radio tuned to Rush Limbaugh.

    I had a legal spat with Saul Alinsky over authorship of Rules for Radicals. The settlement is under seal but I can say that he gets to take credit while I got a huge cash settlement and 99% of royalties, he’s the 1%. I have a daughter named Pebbles. The cash put her through private Pre-K from ages 2 through 5. It was a great experience that left her academically ready for elementary school and socially ready for high school. Another benefit was that my investment manipulated the market for academic Pre-K by creating the appearance of a huge demand so lucrative that the government wants to privatize public Pre-K programs. When that happens I stand to make billions. This is going to be bigger than Bernie Madoff. Don’t believe me? I once lived in his building in New York. Coincidence?

  7. jlp75

    February 26, 2012 at 10:13 pm

    It’s funny how these idiot conservatives always question data that progressives use to justify their findings while offering no data of their own. The onus is always on progressives to offer supporting data while they can just pull opinions out of their rear end and we are supposed to take that as fact. Alex and Frank put up or shut up. UNC has conducted studies that have found benefits to this program. Provide DATA that says otherwise or shut the @$%# up.

  8. jlp75

    February 26, 2012 at 10:15 pm

    Greg get it right. I read on a Charlotte Observer message board that we are now getting our marching orders from Bill Maher. He is the new Obama puppet master. LOL.

  9. jlp75

    February 26, 2012 at 10:17 pm

    If progressives are dinosaurs I guess conservatives are simple single cell organisms. Makes since they are rather simple minded.

  10. Frank Burns

    February 27, 2012 at 6:08 am

    I am the true progressive by advocating we eliminate programs which do not work and use those funds for more worthwhile programs, like actual education. For those interested here is the government study. http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/opre/hs/impact_study/reports/impact_study/executive_summary_final.pdf

    Other people call themselves progressives yet when they advocate keeping government programs that don’t work, they fail to be progressives. They then transition to shills for the Democratic party where spending is no object. In the process they lose their objectivity, honesty and integrity.

  11. Alex

    February 27, 2012 at 8:25 am

    Well said Frank. One only has to look on MSNBC at night to see a steady stream of Democratic operatives masquerading as “reporters” and advocating for Obama programs whether they work or not .. I’ve never such biased reporting in my life. It always amazed me how they railed on for months on the treatment of Guantanamo prisoners, and then had no problem at all sending in drones to blow up men, women and children often with faulty intelligence. I used to call it instant interrogation, but it has hardly drawn any attention at all.

  12. jlp75

    February 27, 2012 at 8:39 am

    One only has to look on Fox News at night to see a steady stream of Republican operatives masquerading as “reporters”. I agree.

  13. gregflynn

    February 27, 2012 at 10:23 am

    Frank, more than once, in a shoot from the La-Z-Boy style, you have dismissed Pre-K as free day-care. You make no distinction between private and public Pre-K, academic or non-academic programs, or between the various public and private funding mechanisms, of which Head Start is only one, or between age groups.

    The study you linked to, which was a federal report just about Head Start, not specific to North Carolina, drew no such conclusion, and made no such recommendation about eliminating academic Pre-K and using those funds elsewhere. In fact it said:

    It will be important in future research to examine whether the positive parent-child relationships for the 3-year-old cohort translate into improved outcomes as children get older, as well as whether the findings for subgroups of children persist over the longer term. To that end, the study children have been followed through 3rd grade. The 3rd grade report will examine the extent to which impacts of Head Start on initial school readiness are altered or maintained as children enter pre-adolescence. Further, that report will provide a greater focus on how children’s later experiences in the school and community affect their outcomes at 1st and 3rd grades.

    The study had limited goals.

    Head Start is a federal program for poor children ages 3 to 5. The related Early Head Start covers poor children from birth to age 3.

    Federal funds allocated to individualized services in the areas of education and early childhood development; medical; dental; mental health; nutrition; and parent involvement

    SmartStart is a state level umbrella program targeting all children from birth to age 5. It’s about making the most of these years for healthy growth and development.

    Planning and funding to:
    • Improve access to child care
    • Improve the quality of child care
    • Improve access to health services for young children
    • Improve family support services

    NC Pre-K was More-at-Four until 2011. It is targeted towards at-risk 4-year-olds who have not been exposed to a child care setting.

    Planning and funding to:
    •Serve children who are not getting the
    educational preparation they need
    before starting school
    •Create a standard, statewide pre-k program

    A long term UNC study of More-at-Four described the program thus:

    More at Four provided funding for classroom-based educational programs at sites designated by each local county administration, including public schools, private for-profit and non-profit child care centers, and Head Start programs.

    And made the following summary conclusion in 2011

    These findings indicate that the More at Four Program has beneficial effects on children’s language/literacy and math skills at entry into kindergarten. These effects were found across a number of different measures of language, literacy, and math, and were similar for different groups of children based on poverty status, English language proficiency, and cumulative risk. This study included over 1,000 children and used a rigorous regression discontinuity design. In sum, these results demonstrate that the More at Four Program is achieving its primary goal of improving school readiness for at-risk children.

  14. Frank Burns

    February 27, 2012 at 11:25 am

    Greg, please don’t try to confuse the issue. Pre K is Pre K. How many ways can you teach a kid how to properly blow his nose and tie his shoes?

    Here is another good study from Appalacian State which evaluates all Pre K programs. http://www.eagleforum.org/educate/2003/mar03/pre-k-center.shtml

    “A number of states have initiated, or are in the process of initiating, free pre-K center care programs for children from low-income families. For example, North Carolina has a program called Smart Start; Alabama is in the process of starting a program called Kid Stuff; and Georgia is currently operating a fully-funded statewide pre-K center care program for all four-year-olds. In the case of Smart Start (Dombro, 2002) and Kid Stuff (The Governor’s Early Learning Commission Report, 2001), the states estimate that when fully implemented, these programs will cost in excess of $300 million per year.”

    “Conclusion
    Do pre-kindergarten center care programs work? Science tells us that pre-K center care, even the highest quality care, seems to have little or no effect on children’s intellectual development or school performance, and that they might have negative behavioral consequences for young children. There is no convincing evidence to support the notion that they improve, or in any way influence, school readiness. ”

    These programs do have a purpose: they are a source of free babysitting for low-income families. However, these pro-grams are very expensive. State estimates of the cost of fully implemented state operated pre-K programs run into the hundreds of millions of dollars per year. If states want to fund daycare for children from low-income families, the most cost-effective and family-friendly method would be to create voucher programs for this purpose.

    Authors: Verne R. Bacharach, Ph.D., Appalachian State University; Alfred A. Baumeister, Ph.D., Vanderbilt University; Jaimily A. Stoecker, M.A., C.A.S., Caldwell County NC Public School District

  15. gregflynn

    February 27, 2012 at 12:56 pm

    You have no idea what you are talking about Frank.

    I know you’re easily confused, which is why I didn’t even mention the fact that there’s also some Federal Title I funding that NC uses for 4 year olds with academic deficiencies. This is used both separately and blended with Head Start and NC Pre-K funds in various districts. There is also separate funding for early childhood education for children with special needs. For your information, NC Pre-K program is about 50/50 public/private in terms of delivery location. The article at the top highlights the proposal to cut public locations out of the publicly funded NC Pre-K program.

    Here’s what the draft report, to be signed by two Republicans, has to say about NC Pre-K:

    The Committee finds that high quality early childhood programs yield cost-beneficial positive outcomes for children. It is therefore the intent of the Committee that continued level funding is provided for State-funded early childhood programs in North Carolina.

    The Committee finds that a substantial body of longitudinal research indicates positive learning outcomes from the provision of high-quality early childhood education programs to children whose families live in poverty. The most significant effects appear to be with children from more adverse conditions.

    For the record your quoted “study from Appalacian State” was NOT a study from Appalachian State”. It was a review in a 2003 publication of the ultra-conservative Eagle forum by three authors, one of who was an ASU professor. The NC Pre-K program was started as More-at-Four in 2001. It is not even mentioned. Smart Start go a brief shout out and that is a broad program. They discussed pre-kindergarten child-care from birth through kindergarten at day care center mostly in the 1980′s but not contemporary academic Pre-K programs with which there is no equivalency . The Eagle Forum is an organization with an agenda against child care, let alone Pre-K education and public education in general. Titles such as “Universal Child Care Means Ending Parents’ Rights”, “Feminists’ Double Standards About Child Care”, and “Who Will Rock the Cradle?” are all part of a conservative war on feminism. Yes those authors wrote about day-care programs, NOT about academic Pre-K, yet even after trashing day-care they found it valuable enough to be paid for with taxpayer vouchers. These arguments against Pre-K are political, not scientific or academic.

    By moving the 50% of NC Pre-K which is in public schools to private facilities, the various academic Pre-K programs which remain in schools will be weakened because early childhood education depends on synergy between programs for maximum effect.

    Academic Pre-K programs are here to stay in NC. Deriding it as teaching kids to blow noses and tie shoelaces is reckless and willful ignorance.

  16. Frank Burns

    February 27, 2012 at 7:26 pm

    I disagree that Pre K is here to stay. I’m hopeful that our NC Legislatures will see this as a pot of money that can be used for other more useful purposes.

  17. James

    February 27, 2012 at 9:57 pm

    Greg, you are having a debate with a brick wall. You could bring God herself to the discussion and Frank would argue that she is full of crap and doesn’t know what she’s talking about.

  18. Frank Burns

    February 28, 2012 at 5:56 am

    James, In my observations, your resistance to other points of view make you the brick wall. You are showing progress though by capitalizing the G in God. You need to fix the sex of God though. He not She.